Triangle Marijuana Growers and the Rise of Solar Power By Martin A. Lee / Project CBD August 12, 2015 A nascent solar power industry made it possible for 1970s Northern California pot farmers to do their thing. And vice versa. When solar energy pioneer John Schaeffer sold the first photovoltaic panel to a U.S. retail customer in Mendocino County in 1978, he didn’t realize that he had struck a decisive blow against the war on drugs. It was an auspicious time for Schaeffer to launch his business, the Real Goods eco-store in Willits, California, which specialized in solar power equipment, organic fertilizer, irrigation systems, and tools for sustainable living (before “sustainable” became a catchword). During the late 1970s, Mendocino farmers in increasing numbers were turning to marijuana to make ends meet, and the solar power technology provided by Real Goods enabled cannabis growers and their families to live off-the-grid in remote, rural areas while raising a lucrative, albeit illegal, cash crop. “Cannabis was the new and up-and-coming thing,” explained Schaeffer. “Solar power facilitated the emergence of an indigenous cannabis industry in Northern California. And the cannabis growers, in turn, supported the fledgling solar power movement . . . It was a fruitful symbiosis.” Solar technology was new and expensive back then. “Initially,” Schaeffer recalled, “we sold small, nine-watt panels for $900 -- that’s $100 per watt. [By reference today, solar panels go for about one dollar per watt, so the price has dropped by 99 per cent.] Who could afford a $900 watt panel that would charge a battery to run lights, a TV, a sound system for music? Well, the marijuana growers were the only people who could afford it.” Within a few years, the region known as the Emerald Triangle -- encompassing Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties -- would become America’s cannabis breadbasket, the heartland of domestic marijuana cultivation. Located two hours north of San Francisco, this lush, 10,000 square mile swath of redwoods and rushing streams was home to a loose-knit underground of fiercely independent farmers who, it turns out, excelled at growing cannabis. These guerrilla ganja growers managed to transform “homegrown” -- an erstwhile put-down for lousy ditch weed -- into some of the best, most expensive, and most sought-after herb in the world. Back to the Land full story @ alternet Martin A Lee is the director of Project CBD and the author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana—Medical, Recreational and Scientific.